While premium laptops may wow reviewers and shoppers alike with fancy features and overpowered performance, there’s a broad segment of shoppers who need to fill a few basic computing needs without it costing an arm and a leg. If you need a laptop that lets you browse the Web, do standard office or school work, or sort through your family photos, the Gateway NE72206u is an affordable system with a decent feature set. But while it will get the job done for an affordable price, there are other budget-friendly systems that offer a little more bang for the buck.
Design and Features
While most budget-priced laptops have shifted toward netbook-like designs or smaller hybrid tablet form factors, the Gateway NE72206u is a full-sized desktop replacement laptop, with a broad 17.3-inch display and a hefty seven-pound chassis that measures 1.4 by 16.3 by 10.8 inches (HWD). It’s probably too large to take with you on a bus, or carry from class to class, but it will move from room to room just fine.
The aforementioned display offers 1,600-by-900 resolution, which is no visual match for the 1,920-by-1,080-pixel displays seen on more expensive 17-inch systems. But it’s noticeably better than the 1,366-by-768 displays seen on most low-priced laptops, and offers plenty of room for multitasking and support for 720p video. It isn’t a touch screen, however. The accompanying audio is lower in quality, with low overall volume and almost no bass.
The large size leaves room for a full-size keyboard and a numeric pad to the right. The keyboard uses adjacent keys instead of the spaced out chiclet design that’s favored by so many manufacturers, and the keyboard may feel a bit cramped as a result. With no backlight, this won’t be the best keyboard to use in the dark, but it exhibits very little flexing, making it one of the sturdier keyboards we’ve seen in this price range.
The accompanying touchpad supports all sorts of Windows 8 gestures, like pinch, rotate, and flip, but uses a scroll strip along the right edge of the sensor to scroll up and down (or side to side when on the Windows 8 Start Screen). This scroll strip is a bit of a throwback, and adds a complication when doing edge swiping gestures, such as flicking in from the right to access the Windows button or settings.
On the right-hand side of the chassis is a tray-loading optical drive (DVD±RW DL), along with a single USB 2.0 port and jacks for headphones and mic. On the left, two more USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0) along with HDMI out, VGA out, and Gigabit Ethernet. On the front edge of the chassis is an SD card slot. Wireless connections include 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The NE72206u sports a 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, which may not be cutting edge, but offers more than enough storage space for your family photo collection and iTunes library. Preinstalled on the drive is a slew of bundled software, from 30-day trials of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Office to offerings like Skype, Netflix, and Wild Tangent games. Gateway includes its own Recovery Management and Power Management utilities, and covers the NE72206u with a one-year warranty.
The NE72206u is equipped with a quad-core 2GHz AMD A6-5200 accelerated processing unit (APU). It’s worth noting, however, that AMD’s processors lack the multi-threaded processing capability seen in Intel’s Core processors, making this quad-core AMD chip a closer equivalent to a dual-core Intel Core i3.
In performance tests the NE72206u completed PCMark 7 with 1,598 points and Cinebench with 1.87 points. Comparing the NE72206u with the Core i3-equipped Toshiba Satellite C875-S7340, we see that the Toshiba C875-S7340 leads in both PCMark 7 (2,503 points) and Cinebench (2.41 points)—performance that will be noticeably faster than that of the Gateway. Multimedia performance was equally modest. The NE72206u completed Handbrake in 1 minute 57 seconds, and Photoshop in a notably slow 11 minutes 34 seconds.
Packaged with the processor is AMD’s integrated Radeon HD 8400 graphics processing. While it offers passable performance for Web browsing and the basic visual demands of day-to-day use, it only goes so far. In 3DMark 11, the NE72206u scored 1,026 points at Entry settings and 180 points at Extreme. This puts it ahead of the Editors’ Choice Dell Inspiron 15 (I15RV-6190 BLK), which scored a meager 664 (Entry) and 119 (Extreme) thanks to the integrated graphics of its low-powered Pentium processor. As with any laptop under $500, gaming will be limited to simple games like CandyCrush.
One benefit offered by low-powered hardware is longevity in battery life. With its 6-cell 48WH battery, the NE72206u lasted 5 hours 21 minutes in our battery rundown test, putting it well ahead of similarly priced competitors.
While the price of the Gateway NE72206u may fit your budget nicely, there’s more to a laptop than price. The NE72206u offers passable battery life, a decent feature set, and a large display, but other competitors offer better value. The Editors’ Choice Dell Inspiron 15 (I15RV-6190 BLK), for example, offers similar performance for nearly $100 dollars less, and the Toshiba Satellite C875-S7340 offers better performance, which will translate into a faster, more enjoyable experience.
|Processor Name||AMD A6-5200|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon HD 8400|
|Processor Speed||2.0 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
|Screen Size||17.3 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||500 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc